Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Season Begins!

The beginning of the race season is an interesting time in the mind of most bike racers. Months of hard work and dedicated preparation throughout the offseason is about to be put to the test, and the cyclist will usually harbor a mix of quiet hopefulness and bit of terror as he awaits the outcome of the first races to either put his mind at ease or confirm his worst fears.
I was enduring a bit of my own pre-season jitters, and was anxious for the season to get underway. Before I could begin these season
opening races, I had to first get to where the races were at. This
year, that happens to be Europe, a prospect I am very excited
about. That meant moving out of the apartment in Greenville, SC that
had been a winter training home for myself and some of my racing
buddies. Before leaving, I took some photos of my apartment
furnishings, so you can get an idea of what the glorious lifestyle of
a young wanna-be pro looks like. My Dad says it looks pretty
similiar to what his first appartments all looked like, so that's
somewhat reassuring.
Team Type 1 Cyclist Paul Lynch uses our Wal-mart fold out table and chair set.

The storage pod from the roof of the car doubles as an ottoman, table, and work-bench all in one.
We always seem to be about one quarter short of being able to do a load in the drier.
Cardboard boxes have all sorts of uses: Night stand, bed-extender, and trash can.
As much as I enjoyed my time in Greenville, I was quite excited to be moving to the team house in Toulouse, France, where I would enjoy sleeping on a real bed and some real furniture. I took one last ride over Paris Mountain, repacked my essential belongings (air mattress and panini press) into the car, and bid farewell to my winter home. After spending the night with some relatives in Charlotte, NC, I boarded my first european flight of the year. I slept off some jet lag, took in the surroundings at my new european home base. Perched on top of a hill, our large house has a view of the Pyrennees to the south, and surrounding hills and valleys in all directions. Downtown Toulouse is a good coffee shop ride distance to our north. With endless rolling climbs, narrow roads, and mild weather, this seems like the perfect place for a cycling team. I only had a few days to practice my (very insufficient) French skills, before the team loaded up into the vans and made the long journey to cycling's heartland of Flanders for our first races of the year.

The first race, a 180 kilometer race just south of the French-Belgian border was a suffer-fest of relentless crosswinds and rain, made worse by the Cofidis, Saur-Sojasun, and Landbeowcredit teams who were coming into their classics peak. I spent most of the race hanging on for dear life, watching the riders around me crack in the crosswinds as I patiently awaited my turn to suffer the same fate. My turn arrived with about 20 kilometers to go, and I rode in with a teammate to the finish my first european race of the year.

A few days later we did my first pro kermesse race in Wanzele, Belgium. As the start gun was fired, the light drizzle turned to a downpour and the temperature dropped to less than 40 degrees fahrenheit. After 130 kilometers, the weather had continued to worsen and only 30-some riders of the original 200 were still in the race. Somehow, I made it to the finish of the race, despite being unable to feel my hands or feet or see through my mud clogged eye lashes for the final 30 km. I spent the next hour sitting in a bucket of hot water trying to regain feeling. Mud came out of my ears and nose for days afterwords.

After this lovely welcome back to the world of northern european spring racing, I was glad to be off to warmer climates to join the US National Team at the Istrian Spring Trophy stage race in Croatia. There we stayedd in a beach side resort hotel, and enjoyed sunshine, mild temperatures, and the occasional dip in the Adriatic. The race meandered through rolling climbs and beach front roads. I was happy to feel the legs coming around and I was able to be more aggressive as the race went on. After the race was over, we stayed for another week-long training camp. Then it was back to my French home with the Chipotle team. I've been training hard for the past week with my teammates and am excited to be off to my next race tomorrow, the Circuit Ardennes in northern France. Happily, I've survived the pre-season nervous time and am looking forward to getting into the rythm of racing and traveling over the next couple months. Thanks for reading!

Croatia: the view from the finish of stage 1, and from our beachside hotel
Some successful crawfish hunting with my teammate Andrei, and a view inside the Capitole building in Toulouse

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